Skip to main content
COLLECTION Identifier: MC 563

Papers of Sattareh Farman-Farmaian, 1925-2008 (inclusive), 1992-2008 (bulk)


Letters, publicity materials, book reviews, some biographical material, photographs, etc., related to the promotion of Sattareh Farman-Farmaian's autobiography.


  • Creation: 1925-2008
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1992-2008

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Access Restrictions:

Access. Unrestricted.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright. Copyright in the papers created by Sattareh Farman-Farmaian is retained by the author during her lifetime. Copyright in other papers in the collection may be held by their authors, or the authors' heirs or assigns.

Copying. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


1.67 linear feet ((4 file boxes) plus 2 photograph folders)

The collection contains letters, publicity materials, clippings, reviews, speeches, published and unpublished articles, and essays, most of which relate to the promotion of and responses to Sattareh Farman-Farmaian's autobiography, Daughter of Persia: A Woman's Journey from Her Father's Harem through the Islamic Revolution (1992). Approximately one-third of the material arrived loose or in labeled folders, containing either fan mail with a list of correspondents, or publicity materials organized by event or conference at which Farman-Farmaian appeared. A small amount of foldered material consists of biographical and earlier material. The remainder of the collection, although consisting of similar materials, was bound into eleven booklets in plastic comb bindings and five three-ring binders with plastic sheet protectors. Also included in the collection were eighty-two audiocassettes consisting of speeches and interviews that were removed to form their own collection; see the Sattareh Farman-Farmaian Audiotape collection, 1987-2008 (T-339).

Series I, BIOGRAPHICAL AND PERSONAL, 1958-ca.2004 (#1.1-1.5), contains collected articles, clippings, and reminiscences regarding the Farman-Farmaian family and Sattareh Farman-Farmaian's early work in Iran with the Tehran School of Social Work, as well as her collected speeches on various subjects, e.g., women's and children's rights, social work, Iran, and Islam. Two timelines originally included in a scrapbook of correspondence from Farman-Farmaian's publishers are also included in this series as well as an autographed copy of her autobiography. Folder titles were created by the processor.

Series II, DAUGHTER OF PERSIA MATERIALS, 1987-2008 (#1.6-4.16), contains correspondence, clippings, reviews, and publicity materials related to the publication and promotion of and responses to her autobiography. Material in this series was originally arranged in folders by correspondent or event, found loose in boxes, contained in booklets with plastic comb bindings, or arranged in plastic sheet-protectors in three-ring binders. For preservation purposes material was removed from bound booklets and plastic sheet protectors, and arranged in two subseries.

Subseries A, Letters, 1987-2008 (#1.6-4.1), contains letters about Daughter of Persia written to Sattareh Farman-Farmaian by her publishers, fans, family members, and organizations and institutions. Letters from publishers and editors mainly regard the publishing process, editors' commentary on various reviews, and other commentary addressed to individual editors and forwarded to Farman-Farmaian. Many readers' letters relate their experiences living or working in Iran and other Islamic countries. Family members' letters are generally congratulatory; included are forwarded letters from unrelated individuals, although a few pieces are personal letters regarding past and future plans to visit. The remainder of the correspondence is from organizations or institutions regarding her lectures or readings. Correspondence is arranged alphabetically by author or organization. Letters from unidentified correspondents are at the beginning of the subseries. In a few instances, Farman-Farmaian has included her responses. Folder titles were created by the processor.

Subseries B, Publicity materials, 1991-2007 (#4.2-4.16), consists of reviews of Daughter of Persia; clippings regarding appearances by Farman-Farmaian at book signings, fundraisers, conferences, and other events; and flyers, posters, mailings, programs, itineraries, brochures, invitations, and other publicity materials from events at which she was featured as a speaker or recipient of an award. These materials are arranged chronologically by event. Folder titles were created by the processor.

Series III, PHOTOGRAPHS, 1925-2004 (#PD.1-PD.2), contains images of Sattareh Farman-Farmaian and friends, family, and fans at a number of her appearances, as well as photographs of fans, mailed to Farman-Farmaian with letters. It also includes photographs of Farman-Farmaian in her earlier years as director of the Tehran School of Social Work, including images of the school, and her appearance with Empress Farah at an event presumably having to do with the opening of one of the Community Welfare Centers in Iran. Two of the photographs in which Empress Farah appears seem to be of a separate event with which Farman-Farmaian was not involved. In addition, there are several photographs depicting the coronation of Reza Shah Pahlavi (1925).

Most of the photographs in this collection are or will be cataloged in VIA, Harvard University's Visual Information Access database. Others, referred to as "uncataloged" photographs, are not of sufficient research interest to warrant cataloging and are simply treated as part of the documents they accompany; they are marked on the back with an asterisk in square brackets [*].


Sattareh Farman-Farmaian, daughter of Abdol Hossein Farman-Farma (ca.1858-1939), prince of the Qajar dynasty, and Massumeh (third wife of eight), was born in Shiraz, Iran, in 1921, the fifteenth of thirty-six children (and third of nine children by her mother Massumeh). She had four brothers (Farough, Ghaffar, Rashid, and Sabbar) and four sisters (Jabbareh "Jaby", Homy, Sory, and Korshid).

Farman-Farmaian attended the Tarbiat School, a Bahai-run school in Tehran until its closing in 1933 by Reza Shah Pahlavi. Beginning in 1933, she attended the American School for Girls in the Presbyterian missionary compound in Tehran, renamed the Nurbaksh School. In 1943 she was accepted to Heidelberg College in Tiffin, Ohio, obtaining a visa to the United States in 1944. That year she left Tehran, traveling through India, and first attempted to sail to the United States from Bombay, but her ship was torpedoed and she and her fellow passengers were rescued by British destroyers who returned them to Bombay. Her second attempt to leave India was aboard the United States Navy troopship, U.S.S. General Butler, arriving in Los Angeles on July 4, 1944. The following day Dr. Samuel M. Jordan (who had been involved with the American School in Tehran) met her in Los Angeles and convinced the admissions director of the University of Southern California to admit her. Farman-Farmaian was the first Iranian to attend and graduate from the University of Southern California, completing her B.A. in sociology (February 1946) and her M. S. W. (June 1948). Following graduation in 1948, she took a job in Los Angeles at the International Institute, a settlement house for Asians and other immigrants. In 1948, she also married a University of Southern California film student from India, Arun Chaudhuri, and in 1949 gave birth to her daughter, Mitra. In 1952, her husband returned to India in an attempt to find film work through family connections. Several months later, he wrote to tell her he was unable to find work and, in effect, was deserting her.

Farman-Farmaian left Los Angeles in September 1952 for New York, where two of her brothers lived, and took a job at Cities Service Oil, one of the companies that had been approached to assist Iran in selling its newly nationalized oil. In 1954, she left this position and accepted a two-year renewable position with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a social welfare consultant to the government of Iraq, attempting to settle nomadic Arabic tribes in the desert. In the same year, with the assistance of a Cities Service Oil attorney, she applied for and was granted a divorce from Arun Chaudhuri. In June 1954 she left first for Tehran to visit her family, and then for Iraq to take on her new position. She had been able to keep her daughter Mitra with her for the first year in Bagdad, but, realizing that her work would take her to the desert, decided to send her to Dartington Hall in Devonshire, England, for her education.

In 1958, Farman-Farmaian returned to Tehran to open a private two-year school to train social workers, the Tehran School of Social Work, and served as its director. The school was the first of its kind in Iran. Soon after, she assisted in the founding of the Family Planning Association of Iran which, with assistance from the Pathfinder Fund (now Pathfinder International), attempted to educate young mothers on family planning and the use of birth control in accordance with Islamic law. In the fall of 1958 she was called for an interview with Reza Shah Pahlavi, who himself pledged funds for the support of the school. In 1962 she was awarded the Alumni Award of Merit by the University of Southern California. Following the 1963 riots in which many protested the jailing of Ruhollah Khomeini (later Ayatollah Khomeini) and over two hundred were injured or killed by the military, the Tehran School of Social Work, was asked by Premier Asadollah Alam to identify the families of victims so that reparations could be paid. As a result of the school's successful effort, it received a regular budget from the government and was able to move to a more suitable building. In 1966 the school built the first of many Community Welfare Centers, partially funded by Empress Farah, at which classes in literacy, child care, nutrition, and women's health and hygiene were offered, each containing a family planning clinic. By 1972, Farman-Farmaian had attained a position on the board of the International Association of Schools of Social Work and had become a vice president of the International Planned Parenthood Federation through which she became a member of the "Forward Look Study" task force and the International Planned Parenthood Federation special mission to China. In addition, she served as a delegate to the Bucharest Population Conference (1974), the Tehran International Human Rights Conference (1975), and the Mexico International Conference for Women's Year (1976). She continued as director of the Tehran School of Social Work until 1979, when political upheaval forced her to flee the country. From 1980 to 1992 she worked for Children's Services at the Los Angeles County Department of Social Services. In 1993, she received the Silver Achievement Award from the Greater Los Angeles YWCA and special commendations from both the County and City of Los Angeles. In addition to her autobiography, Daughter of Persia: A Woman's Journey from Her Father's Harem through the Islamic Revolution (1992), which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, she published Social Work as Social Development: A Case History (1996), On the Other Side of the China Wall (1977), Early Marriage and Pregnancy in Traditional Islamic Society (1975), Prostitution Problems in the City of Tehran (1969), Children and Teachers (1966), Country Profile of Iranian Family Planning and Social Welfare (1965), and Children's Needs (1960). She has lectured widely worldwide and in 1997 established a website to publicize and facilitate discussion of her autobiography.


The collection is arranged in three series:

  1. Series I. Biographical and Personal, 1958-ca.2004 (#1.1-1.5)
  2. Series II. Daughter of Persia Materials, 1987-2008 (#1.6-4.16)
  3. ___Subseries A. Letters, 1987-2008 (#1.6-4.1)
  4. ___Subseries B. Publicity materials, 1991-2007 (#4.2-4.16)
  5. Series III. Photographs, 1925-2004 (#PD.1-PD.2)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Accession numbers: 2004-M71, 2008-M112

The papers of Sattareh Farman-Farmaian were given to the Schlesinger Library by Sattareh Farman-Farmaian in July 2004 and July 2008.

Related Material:

There is related material at the Schlesinger Library; see Audiotape collection of Sattareh Farman-Farmaian, 1987-2008 (T-339).

Processing Information

Processed: July 2008

By: Mark Vassar

Farman-Farmaian, Sattareh. Papers of Sattareh Farman-Farmaian, 1925-2008 (inclusive), 1992-2008 (bulk): A Finding Aid
Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America
Language of description

Repository Details

Part of the Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute Repository

The preeminent research library on the history of women in the United States, the Schlesinger Library documents women's lives from the past and present for the future. In addition to its traditional strengths in the history of feminisms, women’s health, and women’s activism, the Schlesinger collections document the intersectional workings of race and ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class in American history.

3 James St.
Cambridge MA 02138 USA